published Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Vols QBs work on leadership

Tennessee quarterbacks, left to right, Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman and Joe Stocstill, practice Saturday before their NCAA team's scrimmage in Knoxville.
Tennessee quarterbacks, left to right, Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman and Joe Stocstill, practice Saturday before their NCAA team's scrimmage in Knoxville.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian told quarterbacks Justin Worley and Nathan Peterman he was going to be quiet during Saturday afternoon's scrimmage.

The message was clear: The two players the Volunteers' highest-profile position battle needed to be louder.

Butch Jones calls it "command presence" and being the "alpha male," and though the Vols' new head coach saw some of it during his team's second spring scrimmage, he's still looking for more of it from the two quarterbacks.

"I thought for the most part they managed it well," Jones said after the scrimmage, "but again, we're still not there yet. [It's] barking out the cadence, the signals and when something's wrong, getting you in the right formation. I think that comes with time, but we don't have time."

Neither Worley nor Peterman finished the day with a spectacular completion percentage, but both took care of the ball. Change a couple of dropped passes into catches and they might have left the field feeling better about their performances.

Worley, who took all the snaps with the first-team offense, admitted he was disappointed in how the offense played and took some responsibility for failing to get his teammates out of their lull.

"Coach Jake came over to us and told us that he was going to be a quiet coach today," the rising junior said. "He wasn't going to be loud and vocal, because he's going to be in the booth when we're playing in a game situation. Nathan and I both stepped up and we got the guys ready.

"We huddled up on the sideline and got some energy in us, but as we fell off toward the end, it falls on us and our leadership, so there's still room for improvement there."

Peterman, the more mobile of the two, kept a couple of plays alive with his feet before finding receiver Drae Bowles for a long completion during one drive and tight end Joseph Ayres for a touchdown negated by a penalty on another possession.

The redshirt freshman also gained nice yardage on a zone-read keeper and would have scored on the play had he not been tagged and thus ruled down 2 yards from the end zone. He also completed a touchdown pass to walk-on receiver Sam Cranford on a slant pattern.

The challenge both quarterbacks face is balancing their role in commanding the offense and their own mastery of the position.

"I don't think I'm doing either one out of balance," Peterman said. "I think I'm trying to keep them both balanced and know that both are equally almost as important. If I get all my reads right, but a receiver's not running the right route, then it's not going to work.

"Both are equally important to me, and we've got to focus on both."

It might be harder for Peterman, who's working with an assortment of underclassmen and walk-ons with the second-team offense.

"It's extremely challenging," Jones conceded, "but again, I just want to see how he responds."

Receivers' rough day

Tennessee's young receiving corps was short three players by the end of the scrimmage, but that was hardly the roughest part of that unit's afternoon.

Cody Blanc dropped catchable passes from Worley on a corner pattern and an out route, and freshman Paul Harris let a perfectly thrown deep ball from Peterman go through his hands.

"Our receivers are not where we expect at all in our offense," Jones said.

The lone bright spot was Jason Croom, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound redshirt freshman who kept a drive alive during a simulated overtime period with a nice grab on a ball thrown behind him and later drew a pass-interference penalty on a two-point conversion play.

"I do think they have taken strides," Peterman said. "I have a lot of respect for the receivers because they're probably the ones that get pressed and get worked the most in practices. I'm proud of them, and we've just got to keep taking more strides."

Jacob Carter, who wore a protective boot on his right foot, missed his second consecutive practice. Vincent Dallas was shaken up during an early kickoff period, and Harris suffered a hamstring injury midway through the scrimmage. Jones confirmed the appearance that neither injury was major.

Vereen 'ejected'

Jones turned a fairly typical post-play scrum into a teaching point when he momentarily ejected freshman defensive end Corey Vereen, who returned a few plays later.

"With the rules changing in college football right now, the fighting rule and all that and the one-game suspension," Jones later explained, "that was an opportunity to make a point -- not to him, but the entire football team. I know this about Corey Vereen: He is of high character, he felt awful about it and everything was his demeanor when I called him over there. He knew what he'd done wrong ... and that was a great teaching point.

"I bet you it never happens with that young man again."

Extra points

Michael Palardy booted three punts of nearly 50 yards during the Vols' punt period, but the rising senior missed three field goals. ... After wearing a noncontact jersey Thursday, safety LaDarrell McNeil returned Saturday with the second-team defense behind Brian Randolph and Byron Moore. ... Jones hosted the university's faculty for a breakfast at Neyland Stadium's club level before the scrimmage.

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com or 901-581-7288. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/patrickbrowntfp.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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